Tag Archive | Boston

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.4

Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

Stop 13: Old North Church

“One if by land, two if by sea.”  We probably all learned these lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, when we studied the American Revolution in elementary school.  Now I got to see where the words were inspired!

Christ Church, aka Old North Church, is the oldest standing church building in Boston, opening on December 29, 1723.  The 191 foot steeple is also the tallest in Boston.  Just before the beginning of the Revolutionary War, British General Thomas Gage made plans to capture the munitions stored by the rebels at Lexington and Concord, and to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams.  However the Sons of Liberty discovered the plot and had time to hatch their own plan to warn of the arrival of the British Army.

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere instructed Christ Church sexton Robert Newman to light lanterns in the steeple to signal the path that the British troops were taking in their advance.  One if by land, two if by sea…  Although the two lanterns only hung for a couple of moments, it was long enough for patriots in Charlestown to learn that the British were crossing the Charles River.

The original steeple was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804, and a replacement was destroyed in 1954, so Old North Church is now on its third steeple.  It doesn’t detract from the beauty of this historic site.  When I was there, there was construction going on and the street that leads to the church was fenced off.  The base of the Paul Revere statue in front of the church was covered in plywood to protect it.  On the way back though we were able to take a photo from the other side.

Stop 14: Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground was Boston’s largest colonial cemetery, dating from 1659.  Most of the people here are ordinary Bostonians; merchants, artisans and craftspeople who lived in the North End of Boston.  A few are notable.  Cotton Mather and Increase Mather, son and father, Puritan ministers who played a large role in the Salem Witch Trials, are buried here.  The sexton of the Old North Church who raised the lanterns, Robert Newman, is also among those who rest here.  It is also believed that approximately 1,000 free African-Americans lie here.

It isn’t all peaceful however.  The British used the burying ground as a vantage point and placed cannons here, in order to bombard Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.

Stop 15: USS Constitution

The USS Constitution, nicknamed “Old Ironsides”, is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world!  She was built over the span of four years, and completed in 1797!

The USS Constitution was rated at 44 guns, but usually carried between 50 and 60 guns.  She also had a larger crew than many ships she came up against.  That combined with her top speed of 13 knots gave her a competitive advantage.

Old Ironsides got her nickname in the War of 1812, when she battled against the British Frigate HMS Guerriere, and cannonballs seemed to bounce off her as if she were made of iron.  This was due to the three layers of white oak and live oak she was constructed with.  Her copper fastenings were made by Paul Revere.

The USS Constitution is berthed at the Charlestown Navy Yard and she heads out into Boston Harbor several times a year for demonstrations.  The Navy Yard and the USS Constitution are part of the Boston National Historical Park, and there are several passport stamps!  Because she is still a commissioned warship, she still has a crew of naval officers and enlisted personnel.  Clara and I were able to tour her, and it was so fun to check her out!  Watch out for the low ceilings!

Stop 16: Bunker Hill Monument

The first major battle of the Revolutionary War was the Battle of Bunker Hill, on June 17, 1775.  Interestingly there was confusion about which hill was supposed to be fortified.  So it was actually Breed’s Hill that was incorrectly fortified due to an incorrect map, and the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed’s Hill.

During the battle, it took a force of 2,200 Redcoats three different assaults to dislodge the rebels from the hastily constructed redoubt on top of the hill.  Although the battle was a British victory, the battle showed how well the Colonial troops could fight.

A Bunker Hill monument was laid in 1825 by the Marquis de Lafayette on the 50th anniversary of the battle.  The granite obelisk that memorializes the hill is 221 feet tall, and was completed in 1842.  You can climb the 294 steps inside the monument and see some beautiful 360 degree views of Boston!  That was fun, but did show me that even though I’m in pretty good shape, Clara is much younger than me!

The Bunker Hill Monument is a part of the Boston National Historical Park as well, so there was another chance to get a stamp!  It was at this point that the official stops of the Boston Freedom Trail ended.  But Clara and I were certainly not done for the day!  We still had to retrace our steps to get back to Boston Common and the parking garage where I was parked.

Clara wanted to check out Mike’s Pastries on our way back, so we got chocolate mousse cannoli, tiramisu, and strawberry cheesecake and shared them all.  They were so delicious!

It was now evening, and Clara and I said our goodbyes and I made my way back to the parking garage, then back to the campground.  The good news was that I missed the evening traffic as well!

I had so much fun in Boston, and it was so much fun to have someone to sight-see with!  Boston was easily one of my favorite days on my trip.

Note: If you would like to see the other stops on the Boston Freedom Trail, see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

 

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.3

Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

Stop 9: Old State House

The Old State House was built in Boston in 1713 to house the colony’s government.  It was also at the center of many of the pivotal moments leading up to the American Revolution.

In 1761, James Otis gave a speech against the Writs of Assistance, which allowed Royal customs officials to search for smuggled goods without cause.  In 1768 the colony’s House of Representatives defied England by refusing to rescind their call for united resistance to taxes enacted by the British.  That lead to the occupation of Boston.

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony of the Old State House, and the building became home to the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The lion and the unicorn atop the facade are reproductions.  The original lion and unicorn, which are symbols of royal authority, were removed and burned after the Declaration of Independence was read here.

Today the building houses a Revolutionary Museum (that I would love to go back and visit).

 

Stop 10: Boston Massacre Site

The British occupation of Boston began in 1768.  By 1770, tensions were high, and fist fights and other altercations occurred with some regularity.  On March 5, 1770, Private White, struck Edward Garrick in the face with the butt of his musket for insulting Private White’s superior officer.

That lead to a mob throwing snowballs and yelling.  A regiment of Redcoats arrived to get White out of there, and they had to force their way through a group of several hundred angry colonists.  According to witness accounts, a colonist threw a club, which hit Private Montgomery.  Montgomery fired the first shot.  The crowd did not disperse, and several more shots were fired.  You know the rest; five men were killed.

Interestingly, John Adams was the defense attorney for the soldiers; all but two were acquitted of all charges.

Stop 11: Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 as a center of commerce.  It was designed with market stalls on the first floor and a meeting hall on the second floor, and remains this way today.

In 1764 American’s first protested against the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, which set the stage for what we now call, “no taxation without representation.”  The funeral for the victims of the Boston Massacre was held here.

 

Our walking tour ended here, right at lunchtime, so Clara and I checked out the meeting hall upstairs. Then we decided to get lunch in one of the market stalls in the Quincy Market next door; they had excellent lobster rolls.  They were so delicious!

We also did a bit of shopping in the stalls, and spent some time outside watching a busker who was an escape artist.  It was fun to watch him!

 

Stop 12: Paul Revere House

Paul Revere purchased this home in 1770 when he was 35 years old. By that time the home was already about 90 years old, because it was built around 1680.  Revere lived here when he went on his famous night ride to Lexington to warn the colonial troops that the British army was on it’s way.

Revere, a silversmith by trade, had a huge family.  Revere’s first wife Sarah died giving birth to their eighth child, and his second wife Rachel had another eight children!  Several of these children grew up in this home, along with Revere’s mother.  The home served as a boardinghouse and tenement in the 19th century, and was saved by the Paul Revere Memorial Association in the early 1900s.  It has operated as a historic house museum since 1908!

Clara and I decided to tour the home for $6, and it was fascinating to see a home built in 1680 and a place where one of our pivotal American heroes lived.  Sadly, no photos are permitted inside.  According to the museum website, about 90% of the home’s building materials are original, although they had to renovate to return the home to what it likely looked like when Revere lived here.  There is a lot of good information on their website.

We also saw a religious parade in this Italian neighborhood.  Several men had religious icons held aloft, and they were decorated with bills.  There was a band playing behind them.  I never did figure out what they were celebrating.  I looked to see what Catholic saint’s days were September 9; Saint Peter Claver is the only one who came up, but he was a Spaniard from the region of Catalonia, so that doesn’t make a lot of sense.  If you know what it was about, please let me know!

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.2

Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

Stop 5: King’s Chapel & King’s Chapel Burying Ground

The original King’s Chapel was built in 1688 on the town burying ground, when no one in Boston would sell the Royal Governor land to build a non-Puritan church.

By 1749, the congregation had grown too large for the church, and American architect Peter Harrison was hired to design a church that “would be the equal to any in England.”  The steeple that was part of the original design was never built, but it does contain a colonnade, which was completed after the Revolution.

The King’s Chapel Burying Ground remains next to the chapel and was Boston proper’s first burying ground. It contains the graves of many notables, including Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower.

Stop 6: Boston Latin School Site/Benjamin Franklin Statue

Boston Latin is America’s oldest public school, founded in April 1635.  Five signers of the Declaration of Independence attended here: Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and William Hooper.  Interestingly though, Ben Franklin did not graduate; did you know that he was a high school dropout?

This building was torn down in 1745 in order to expand the King’s Chapel next door, but there is now a statue of Benjamin Franklin on the site as well as a historic plaque on the sidewalk.  The school has moved to the Fenway neighborhood and continues to this day.

Stop 7: The Old Corner Bookstore

The Old Corner Bookstore began in 1718 as an apothecary shop.  The bookstore and printing shop that occupied this site was opened 1828 and operated until 1903.  It first produced the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Wardo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., and Louisa May Alcott.  Many of these notable authors visited the building.

The building has been preserved, but sadly there is no longer a bookstore here.  I believe it currently houses a Chipotle restaurant.

Stop 8: The Old South Meeting House

This building was built in 1729 as a Puritan meeting house, and was at one time the largest building in Boston.  It was also the site where some of the most dramatic discussions and decisions leading up to the Revolution occurred.  A meeting on December 16, 1773, set the stage for a historic event that every school child in the United States studies.  Over 5,000 colonists met to discuss the fate of 30 tons of tea that was waiting to be unloaded from the holds of three ships in Boston Harbor.  If the tea was unloaded, the colonists would owe the tea tax, when did not had a representative in the British government.  The colonists had attempted to have the tea sent back to England but the attempt failed.  So what to do?

Samuel Adams addressed the crowd, saying, “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.”  Some believe these words were code to the Sons of Liberty to begin the Tea Party.  Men dressed as Mohawk Indians then went down to the wharf and dumped 340 crates of tea into Boston Harbor.  The rest, they say, is history…

As we were still on the tour, I apologize for the poor quality of my photos.  We didn’t stop directly in front of many of these buildings, so I was shooting from a distance with scores of people around!  I hope you get the gist…  One thing I found very interesting was seeing these historic sites from hundreds of years ago juxtaposed with modern construction and a bustling city life!  There is a Walgreens just out of frame of this last photo!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.1

Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

One of the places that I most wanted to see on my trip was Boston.  There is so much history there, and I had never been!  Well maybe I went once with my family when I was really little, but I don’t remember it… But I was also nervous about driving in this big city that is notorious for its bad traffic.  I decided to give it a go, and woke up early on a Sunday morning to head in.  I set my GPS for Boston Common, which has a visitor’s center where I could get my bearings.  The first parking garage where I had planned to park was full, due to a race that morning, so I found another in the area – $25 for the whole day – that’s not bad for a big city.

I found the Visitor’s Center and purchased a guidebook to the Boston Freedom Trail for $7 and a walking tour for $13 or $14.  I had a bit of time before the walking tour started, so it was finally time to settle my big city nerves.  Dunkin Donuts was the perfect place for a bagel breakfast sandwich and a coffee!

The tour guide was a older gentleman in period costume (and in character!) as a British Officer.  The tour did the first 11 stops of the Freedom Trail, and it was so informative and interesting!  We got to see some of Boston’s oldest cemeteries, the churches where many of our founding fathers worshiped, the site of the Boston Massacre, and more!

Follow along with me!

Stop 1 – Boston Common

Boston Common is America’s oldest park; established in 1634, it long predates the independence of the United States.  It is also probably one of America’s first public projects, with each homeowner paying six shillings to fund the 30 pounds required to buy the Common’s 44 acres from the first settler in the area, William Blackstone.  Until 1830, the common was used to graze local livestock, with livestock owners chipping in to collectively pay a town shepherd.

In 1775, Boston Common was the camp of the Redcoats during the British occupation of Boston.

More recently, in addition to it still being a public park, it has been the site of rallies and celebrations, including hosting speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr, and Charles Lindbergh, as well as civil rights and anti-war rallies.  For Boston’s large Catholic population, Boston Common was the site of a mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in 1979.

Strangely, I didn’t take any real pictures of Boston Common.

Stop 2 – Massachusetts State House

This impressive building with a golden dome was designed by Charles Bulfinch, and completed on January 11, 1798.  The land with the state house is situated was once John Hancock’s cow pasture.  Initially the dome was made of wood, but was covered with copper by Paul Revere; the gold leaf wasn’t added until 1874.  At the very top of the dome is a gilded pine cone, honoring the state’s reliance on logging in the 18th century.  Interestingly, during World War II the dome was painted gray, due to blackout orders.

This stunning building still houses the senators, state representatives and governor who conduct the daily business of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Stop 3 – Park Street Church

Built in 1809, the Park Street Church is the home of the Trinitarian Congregational church.  The church became known for its support of abolitionist causes after William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first anti-slavery speech on July 4, 1829.  Another fun fact – the song America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee) was first sung from the steps of the Park Street Church.  The church continues to hold weekly congregational services today.

Stop 4 – Granary Burying Ground

The Granary Burying Ground was established in 1660, named for the huge grain storage building that was once next door, and it is Boston proper’s third oldest burying ground.  Although there are 2,345 markers, it is estimated that about 5,000 people were buried here.  There are many notables buried here, including three singers of the Declaration on Independence; Robert Treat Paine, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock.  Paul Revere is buried towards the rear of the cemetery, and Benjamin Franklin’s parents have a centrally located obelisk.  There is an infants tomb, where hundreds of children have been interred.  And last but not least, the five victims of the Boston Massacre are buried here: Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell and Patrick Carr.

You will notice that the stones are neatly placed in lines.  This was not how the cemetery was originally arranged.  In fact, many of the headstones have been rearranged in order to make it easier for the lawnmower to get through.  So take the actual gravesites with a grain of salt here!

The Puritans made up a large part of Boston’s population in the days when the Granary Burying Ground was actively being used, and they didn’t mark their gravestones with religious icons.  Instead, skulls and crossbones and other imagery is popular here.  I liked Captain John Decoster’s stone; he died in 1770 at the age of 26.  In addition to the skull with wings, his stone was engraved with this interesting quote, “Stop here my Friend & Cast an Eye; as you are now so Once was i; as i am now so you must be; Prepare for Death & Follow me.”  He has a point!

It was here as we were milling around looking at headstones, when I was approached by a young woman who was also on the tour alone.  She introduced herself as Clara, and she was in Boston from Singapore for a training for her new job.  She asked if I was going to be touristing after the end of the tour, and if so, would I mind if she tagged along!  Absolutely!  It was nice to meet a friend who was interested in history, and have someone to chat with and share the day!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Boston

I had been wanting to see Boston. A lot. But I was so nervous about driving in the big city and I have heard it is a nightmare! But I wanted to see Boston!

Since today was Sunday, I figured I might have a chance. I got up early, I put my game face on and I did it. The first parking garage I had the GPS set for was full because there was some sort of running race. I saw lots of runners with numbers but thankfully didn’t run into any of the closed streets.

After circling the block twice I got my bearings better and found a better parking garage for my Boston Common destination. Winning at life!!

I did a tour of the Freedom Trail all day. In the morning on one of the guided walking tours, and in the afternoon with my new friend Clara, whom I met on the guided tour. I had so much fun!!

We ate lobster rolls for lunch, wandered to all the sites, climbed to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, saw Faneuil Hall, toured Paul Revere’s house, toured the USS Constitution, and finished off the day with amazing cannoli, tiramisu and cheesecake from Mike’s Pastries.

I had to drive back to camp in the dark, but that meant that the traffic wasn’t bad at all! What an amazing day!!